During a presentation today, somewhere in Shanghai in a tall shiny building, a slide went up showing Shanghai’s PuDong skyline in 1990; green, flat, open space; and Pudong in 2014; packed with skyscaper after skyscraper, the new avatar of this megacity. In 24 years it is almost unfathomable how much a place can change. It is pretty. It is cool. Is it good? Surely for somebody. Is it bad? Oh, surely in a few ways as well. But is it real – at this point I can tell you it is very real.
I feel like I grew up in the era where people said China would be an economic powerhouse, and now I live as an adult in that world. But somehow it is always a media story, always filtered through the internet and second hand stories, when you see it up close, that is when the world as you know it looks very different. That is when predictions and forecasts become reality.
“They don’t speak much english,” my fellow travelers often remark about people in Shanghai. — Why should they? It is their world. This one and the big one out there. And the way this powerful wind blows, it is for us to learn about them far less then it is for them to learn about us. Even if both of those would be beneficial to all and fun.
I can’t yet tell you about Shanghai. After seven days I probably still won’t be qualified or capable. But here on the ground in South Shanghai where buildings are low and the streets are empty at night, it is above all an interesting and intricate world. I’m only in the beginning phases of getting to know it.
Since it started some 14 years ago, this website has been a chronicle of some unforgettable journeys to various corners of the Earth. Being able to share observations and lessons learned has long been one of the pleasures of keeping this place running.
This week, another milestone in the adventure category: I’m off to Shanghai, China.
Shanghai, city of legend, city of the masses, this benchmark for both the past and present, and probably the future too. Biggest city in the world. Economic powerhouse. These are the factoids I read and influence how I approach this journey. I expect crowds. I expect noise. I expect dumplings!
Stay tuned. After a sleepy few months, there are going to be travel stories on CTRP again!
During my time in Portugal I was of course constantly accompanied by my podcasts. Among the programs that I found fairly interesting, On Point Radio was doing their program from Shanghai for a week. At a time where I’m fairly disgusted and often confused about what China is doing to its people and the world, it was of particular interest to hear Tom Ashbrook interviewing various Chinese guests on the topic of the Environment in Crisis and China, Dissent in China, and even China at the Movies.
I imagine many of you also have questions and a desire to better understand what is happening. Questions like, is a boycott the right move or not, and is the situation in China as terrible as it often seems.. etc etc. After listening to these shows I can say, though I may not have the answers, I definitely have a better idea.
With any luck, one day I too can be like Tom and go on my own to someplace in China (Macau for me, in honor of my Portugueseness) and to my own series of podcasts about life and society in China.